Judge Backs Calif. Episcopal Parishes

by System

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday December 14, 2005

SANTA ANA, Calif. -- A judge ruled that two conservative parishes that broke away from the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles to protest the ordination of a gay bishop are the rightful owners of their church buildings and other property.

The diocese had argued that it held the property in trust for All Saints Church in Long Beach and St. David's Church in North Hollywood.

Those parishes, along with St. James Church in Newport Beach, pulled out of the Los Angeles Diocese and the 2.3 million-member national Episcopal Church in August 2004 following the ordination of a gay bishop in New Hampshire. They said they were placing themselves under the jurisdiction of the Anglican Church in Uganda.

Los Angeles Bishop Jon Bruno was among the majority of U.S. Episcopal bishops who voted to endorse the New Hampshire selection.

Los Angeles Diocese officials said Monday they would appeal the ruling by Orange County Superior Court Judge David C. Velasquez , just as they appealed his August ruling in favor of the Newport Beach parish.

"We continue to be very confident of our position on all three of these cases and believe the Court of Appeal will see it our way," said diocesan attorney John Shiner.

ttorney Daniel F. Lula, whose firm has represented the parishes, said he was confident the congregations would prevail on appeal.

The Episcopal Church is the U.S. branch of the 75 million-member worldwide Anglican Communion.

Conservative prelates in Africa, South America and Asia have severed or downgraded relations with the U.S. Episcopal Church over its decision to ordain the gay bishop.

Last year, a unanimous state appeals court ruling granted property rights to St. Luke's Community Church, which had quit the United Methodist Church because it didn't discipline clergy who conducted a union service for a same-sex couple. The California Supreme Court turned down the denomination's appeal.

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